The Hate U Give is a smash hit success 2017 novel. It is based on the relevant current topic of police brutality against African-American citizens in the USA. Starr Carter is from a poor black neighbourhood but goes to a rich white neighbourhood school. She finds her worlds colliding and life turned upside down after witnessing the murder of her friend at the hands of the police. With the success of the book and the current political climate, it was inevitable that this story would get the film treatment. I’m happy to say that for the most part, the film succeeds and is an engrossing and moving experience.
The films biggest trump card is its cast. Everyone – young and old, primary and supporting, disappears into their roles. The ensemble turns in fantastic performances. There’s chemistry between them all and they complement each other very well too. Amandla Stenberg plays the protagonist Starr Carter. She’s come a long way since we saw her as Rue in the Hunger Games six years ago. She’s the heart and soul of this film. Every emotion on her face is so raw and real. Dialogues are delivered with ferocious tenacity when needed. Most characters are fleshed out, even if they have minimal screen presence. The only weak link is Anthony Mackie, whose character is written bland only allowing him to turn in an ordinary performance.
Narratively, the film is well structured and paced. Though there is one subplot I feel could have been done away with. I understand the film wanted to stay faithful to the book. But the inclusion of this subplot distracted from the main narrative and key issue being focused on. The film does a good job of exploring how the same event can be seen so different through different lenses. It is sensitive in its treatment of topical issues currently under much scrutiny. The highlight of the film is a conversation between Starr and her uncle who’s a cop. The scene confronts some uncomfortable realities and tries to bring balance to the narrative by showing both sides of the coin. I wish the film had more such scenes that pushed the envelope and focused on the “why” of the issue being highlighted.
Despite its sincere intentions and, mostly, sensitive treatment of the subject, the narrative progressed into cliché territory in the climax. This was disappointing for a film that had so far made bold creative choices. While I came away feeling more educated and informed, I wish the film offered more insight into how we can do better moving forward and help address the serious issues being discussed.
From a technical standpoint, The Hate U Give is fine, though there’s nothing that stands out. It is cleanly shot and edited and the background score does its job. I was very impressed with the films ability to tonally transition. There were some flat-out hilarious scenes that fit right into an otherwise serious film without being jarring. Another gripe of mine was that the film did seem a bit emotionally manipulative. The narrative chose to follow up almost every happy and heartwarming moment immediately with a crushing one.
While I believe The Hate U Give could have been a truly phenomenal film, I’m happy to say that it’s at least a very good one. I wish it was more introspective and narratively tighter with a more hard-hitting finale. Despite my issues with it, it is eventually a well written and exceptionally acted engaging 2 hours at the cinema.